The key parts I want to discuss here include the definition of animal and the assumption that all animals are sentient beings; banning the use of animals in science and medicine; banning animal foods; closing zoos and aquaria, and not allowing animals in classrooms; and encouraging a vegan lifestyle.
Vegan lifestyle is not defined, but my understanding is that vegans neither eat nor wear anything that is an animal product (See also veganism at Wikipedia).
I think we can apply human ethics to the treatment of animals by humans, but the first thing to remember is that they are human ethics, not the ethics of animals. Carnivores do not eat vegan diets, and carnivores are crucial components of ecological systems. Recall that carnivores do not just include large mammals like wolves and tigers; carnivores come in all sizes, right down to the microscopic level.
Just as animals can be classified as herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, there are many classifications of animals. I have no problem with arguing about how sentient specific species of animals are, but I find calling a tick or nematode sentient to border on ludicrous. The most basic problem with this plank, and vegan philosophy (which is derived from a branch of the Hindu religion), is that it allows thinking only in terms of broad moral absolutes. Fact-based knowledge of the world is excluded. Vegans want all animals, including wild animals (and pests that exist in large numbers because they have accommodated well to humans) treated as if they were pets. No argument is allowed. By the vegan gospel humans should not be allowed to treat (kill) animal parasites like worms and malaria.
Which is a major difference between my Natural Liberation Philosophy and many of the doctrines that are current among environmentalists. We need to be able to apply our ethics and philosophy to specifics. Deep Ecology also appreciates the importance of carnivores.
The proposed plank sees a future in which all human food is plant material. How much more unecological could you get? This proposal eliminates not just carnivores, but also all herbivores from the equation. No cows, sheep, goats, or pigs. Just wall to wall soy and carrots.
Even the allegation that the plank stops cruelty to animals (and that those of us who voted against the plank are cruel, by implication) does not stand up to scrutiny. The plank wants children to go to schools where there is not an animal, dead or alive, to be seen or studied. What kind of children would that produce? And since it would ban all dissections, there would be no way for veterinary students to learn to do surgery. Nor could scientists find new cures for animal diseases.
In fact, the plank really advocates a total separation of the human world from the animal world.
I do believe that some scientists, both private-sector and academic, have abused their power over animals. I have no problem with setting up animal ethics committees to deal with these questions. But I also don't believe that simply raising an animal in a laboratory is inherently cruel, and I do believe we have a right to weigh the value of what is learned.
I was surprised that many people on the subcommittee could not handle gray areas. They wanted absolutes. In that way they resembled the anti-abortion, anti-contraception movement. I can see that an egg and sperm are not a human being, and that a one-year old child is. People can have all the facts about fetal development and still disagree on the ethics of the timing of when a fetus or baby gains a right to life. But when they say "The Bible says ..." they are no longer arguing about either the facts of development or the fine points of ethics. And vegan absolutists do not argue about ethics or cruelty, as I learned in this discussion. They try to use environmental concerns ("cows cause greenhouse gas") to support what is essentially a religious, moral position. They refused to make reasonable compromises, and mainly because of failed to get their plank out of our committee.
I think healthy farms include animals that produce eggs and milk, and even meat. A truly valuable animal byproduct is manure, which is indispensable to keeping the vegetable part of a farm thriving. I would rather legislate that farms must start be more diverse in what they create than that they can't raise animals.
People are mortal. Accepting the mortality of people and of all life forms is crucial to developing a sound philosophy and a sound society. To a large extent a vegan lifestyle is an attempt to deny death. It is a lifestyle based on fear and denial.
A little honey won't hurt anyone. Bees seem to like to make it. And bees will sting their enemies. I hope Green Party members will become more like bees, and less like walking ghosts, too busy being afraid of breaking imaginary rules of karma to actually get anything productive done.
Proposed new Green Party U.S. Ethical Treatment of Animals plank
Cruelty to animals is repugnant and unacceptable. The mark of a humane society lies in how we treat the least protected among us. Our species does not have the right to exploit and inflict violence on other animals simply because we have the desire and/or power to do so.
We call for an intelligent, non-hierarchical and non-exploitive relationship with other animal species and the natural world. We reject the belief that nonhuman species exist only to serve the needs of the human species.
There is a moral equality between humans and nonhuman animals in that we are all sentient beings. Such an ethic not only upholds the value of biological diversity and the integrity and continuity of species, but also the value of the lives and interests of individual animals.
The Green Party advocates the following policies:
1. Redirect nationally-funded research away from animal experiments and towards health care, preventive medicine, and biomedical research using non-animal procedures determined to be scientifically valid. Halt wasteful public funding of unnecessary or duplicative animal experiments. Establish procedures to develop greater public scrutiny of all animal research.
2. Phase out the use of animals for consumer product testing, tobacco, alcohol, drug and psychological testing, classroom demonstrations and dissections, weapons development and other military programs. Ban pound seizure of animals for research.
3. Mandate clear labeling of products disclosing whether or not they have been tested on animals and if they contain any animal ingredients.
4. While we recognize our current laws are not sufficient to end the abuse of animals, in the meantime, we support amending the Humane Slaughter Act and the Animal Welfare Act to cover those animals currently excluded in agriculture and research.
5. Phase out as a matter of urgency the most egregious examples of animal cruelty practices in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) at the federal and state level. We ultimately envision a time when U.S. public policy recognizes CAFOs to be inimical to the interests of a healthy human population and to the promotion of environmental and animal protection.
6. Ban the transport of live horses to other countries for foreign consumption.
7. End international and national trade in wildlife. Ban the use of goods produced from exotic or endangered animals, and promote the use of non-animal, sustainable materials in all manufacturing.
8. Prohibit the use of inhumane and indiscriminate wildlife control methods to address human-wildlife conflicts.
9. Prohibit large scale commercial breeding facilities, such as “puppy mills,” mandate spay and neuter laws, subsidize spay and neuter clinics, and discourage further breeding of companion animals by incurring breeder fees such that they fund no-cost spay and neuter clinics.
10. Ban the exploitation of animals in entertainment, gambling and sports, including, but not limited to, dog fighting and cock fighting, rodeos, horse and dog racing, American bullfighting, circuses, zoos, aquariums and theme and roadside parks. We advocate converting zoos, wildlife parks, aquariums, and similar facilities into sanctuaries for rescued animals.
11. Ban canned hunts and the corresponding trade in animals from zoos and other commercial “entertainment” industries. Ban other hunting and fishing for sport.
12. Eliminate free-trade laws that weaken or revoke efforts to end animal cruelty in commerce.
13. Ultimately, we acknowledge that it is not possible to treat farm animals in an ethical manner given that the end result, in most cases, is to send animals to slaughter. In the interests of ecological sustainability, health and non-violence, we support transitioning from an animal-based agriculture system to a plant-based system, and encourage more individuals to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
14. As a world view that respects animals as fellow sentient beings expands within our society, it will lead to a future kinship with them that we currently do not have. In such a society, the "use" and killing of animals as resources for humans will naturally be phased out and a more cooperative ethic between species will take its place.
Currently written 2004 Ethical Treatment of Animals plank (that the above plank would replace)
Cruelty to animals is repugnant and criminal. The mark of a humane and civilized society lies in how we treat the least protected among us. To extend rights to other sentient, living beings is our responsibility and a mark of our place among all of creation. We call for an intelligent, compassionate approach to the treatment of animals.
We reject the belief that our species is the center of creation, and that other life forms exist only for our use and enjoyment. Our species does not have the right to exploit and inflict violence on other creatures simply because we have the desire and power to do so. Our ethic upholds not only the value of biological diversity and the integrity and continuity of species, but also the value of individual lives and the interest of individual animals.
The Green Party advocates humane treatment of animals with the following policies:
1. Redirect the funds that are disbursed annually by the National Institutes of Health away from animal experiments and more towards direct health care, preventive medicine, and biomedical research using non-animal procedures such as clinical, epidemiological, and cell culture research.
2. Phase-out the use of animals for consumer product testing, tobacco and alcohol testing, psychological testing, classroom demonstrations and dissections, weapons development and other military programs.
3. Mandate clear labeling of products to tell whether or not they have been tested on animals and if they contain any animal products or by-products.
4. Establish procedures to develop greater public scrutiny of all animal research. These should include the welfare of laboratory animals, and a halt to wasteful public funding of unnecessary research such as duplicative experiments.
5. End the abuse of animals, including farm animals, and strengthen our enforcement of existing laws.
6. Ban the use of goods produced from exotic or endangered animals.
7. Prohibit large scale commercial breeding facilities, such as “puppy mills,” because of the massive suffering, overpopulation, and ill health such facilities produce.
8. Subsidize spay and neuter clinics to combat the ever-worsening pet overpopulation problem that results in the killing of millions of animals every year. Where unwanted companion animals are being killed in shelters, we advocate mandatory spay and neuter laws.
9. Ban the exploitation of animals in violent entertainment and sports.